The remaining four NFL playoff teams — ranked

The remaining four NFL playoff teams — ranked

With the exception of Buffalo, the NFL playoffs are shaking out pretty much as expected

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Joe Burrow and the Bengals appear to be the class of the AFC.
Joe Burrow and the Bengals appear to be the class of the AFC.
Image: Getty Images

We’re down to four and they were arguably the NFL’s four best teams all season long — the Bengals, 49ers, Eagles, and Chiefs. For all the offseason shuffling of quarterbacks and coaches, three of the four teams from last year’s conference championship weekend, with the lone exception being the team that won last season’s Super Bowl. In the four divisional matchups, only one team won on the road and two won by a touchdown.

Now it’s time to rank the four remaining teams from worst to best on their chances of this season’s Lombardi Trophy, with some obvious shuffling based on how the victors looked this weekend. And the main difference between last week’s list and this one has to do with one thing: A Jaguars defensive end not knowing how to properly tackle.

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2 / 10

4. Kansas City Chiefs

4. Kansas City Chiefs

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For the fifth straight season, Kansas City will play in the AFC Championship Game. Instead of losing home-field advantage and trekking to Atlanta, one route to the Super Bowl will be played in Missouri. And the Rams left several seasons ago. On last week’s countdown, I did rank the Chiefs as having the highest chance to win this year’s Super Bowl. Now, they’re last of four for one obvious reason only: the health of Patrick Mahomes. Without Mahomes at full strength behind center this late in the year, betting on Kansas City to be at its best is foolish.

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3 / 10

Chiefs (cont.) — First to worst

Chiefs (cont.) — First to worst

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It’s a cruel fate for Mahomes that a shady lack of tackling and a Jaguars’ defender landing on him caused a high-ankle sprain. The recovery back to 100 percent takes weeks and we might see Mahomes back at full strength should Kansas City make it back to the Super Bowl. He’ll likely be on crutches at some point this week. And Mahomes will likely be limited in terms of his mobility until the Bengals are across the field from him. Yet, you can never truly count out the Chiefs with Andy Reid pulling the strings.

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4 / 10

3. San Francisco 49ers

3. San Francisco 49ers

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In winning their 12th game in a row, the 49ers advanced to their second straight NFC title game. And a team with Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, and so many other talented players falling into third shows the quality of the top two, not how the 49ers don’t deserve to be here. Yet, San Francisco only beat a hot-and-cold Dallas team, on a lukewarm day at best, by a touchdown. The 49ers’ defense played extraordinarily well, but that by itself won’t be enough to advance to the Super Bowl.

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5 / 10

49ers (cont.) — Ain’t it Purdy?

49ers (cont.) — Ain’t it Purdy?

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Entering the last four with a rookie quarterback — Brock Purdy — is a tremendous red flag. I don’t care how well he’s played in recent weeks and the 49ers quarterback doesn’t have to be immaculate with how much talent is on that team. Yet, outside of Nick Foles, no quarterback from the non-elite group has lifted the Lombardi Trophy. And every other team left vying for it has an elite quarterback. This isn’t the year for the Bay Area.

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6 / 10

2. Cincinnati Bengals

2. Cincinnati Bengals

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Last week, I ranked the Bengals sixth out of the remaining eight teams. The tides have opened like the Red Sea in Moses’ direction for a return trip to the Super Bowl for Cincinnati. After defeating the Bills in the snow, and with the Chiefs possibly not playing Mahomes, the biggest beneficiary are the Bengals. Joe Burrow looks every bit the part of a Hall of Famer with his methodical takedown of opposing defenses. And the rest of the Cincinnati offense looks much improved from its great one from last year.

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7 / 10

Bengals (cont.) — Why not the top spot?

Bengals (cont.) — Why not the top spot?

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Cincinnati’s defense did play great in the snow against Buffalo and it has the potential to do enough to lead the team to the Super Bowl. No matter which NFC team the Bengals would face in the Super Bowl, it would have a better defense and a comparable offense. When getting down to the end of the year, you’re picking at straws when spotting differences between the top teams. I just like one straw a little better than one from Skyline Chili.

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8 / 10

1. Philadelphia Eagles

1. Philadelphia Eagles

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After the Eagles dismantled the Giants over the weekend, how could they not be in the top spot? Before Week 15, they were the NFL’s top team and if they ever regained that form after Jalen Hurts’ shoulder injury, it’d be their trophy to lose. Three offensive players with more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage and four players with double-digit sacks? That’s crazy. And they reached the top seed in the NFC in the best division in football this season.

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9 / 10

Eagles (cont.) — Did the Birds peak too early?

Eagles (cont.) — Did the Birds peak too early?

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We’ve seen Philadelphia play great against great teams. We must discount the Giants’ value though, who largely punched above their weight this entire season. There’s no way the 49ers’ defense gives up 38 points on Sunday. When the Eagles’ offense must face a little bit of adversity, do they crumble? Or find a way to get back to the Super Bowl? I’m betting on the latter.

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10 / 10